The Ethics of Abortion
When I was in college, I took a Women’s Studies class with a friend from High School that was attending college with me. She and I were in the same discussion group with about 12 other students. (I was the only male in the group.) When we came to the topic of abortion, the general consensus of the rest of the discussion group was, “I would never want to have an abortion, but I would defend a woman’s right to choose.” After class my friend and I were walking home. She said to me, “That’s stupid. If abortion is okay, then they should totally feel fine having one. Either it’s okay or it’s not. I believe abortion is okay, so I would definitely have one if I needed it.” Though she and I disagreed about the conclusion, we both agreed that the consensus position of the rest of the class was not logically consistent.
The problem, I think, is that almost everyone agrees that abortion is not good and all women should try to avoid having one. But why? Here’s where so many people break down. If abortion is not good, then it is not good for some ethical reason. The only real reason available for why abortion would be not good is because it is taking the life of an innocent victim. Most people would define taking an innocent life as murder. So if abortion is wrong, it is wrong because it is murder. The corollary is that, if abortion is not murder, then it is not wrong – ever.
By saying, “I would never want to have an abortion,” the rest of the students in my class implicitly agreed with me (against my friend) that abortion is not good. But if it is not good, the reason it is not good is because it is murder. It is absolutely unfathomable to me how someone could believe that an act is murder and yet think it is an individual’s right to decide whether to commit that act. Imagine if we did that with fratricide: “Personally I believe killing your brother is wrong, but I would defend someone’s right to make his own decision whether he will kill his brother.” What about abandoning your infant? No one is allowed to make her own choice about whether she will leave her 3-month-old son or daughter to the elements to be killed. It is wrong, for everyone, at all times. If abortion is murder then it is profoundly wrong to allow anyone “the right to choose.”
Of course there are all kinds of issues involved. And I have no desire to minimize any of them: the economic situation of the woman, the difficulties of being a single mother, the conflicting emotions, the unwillingness of the father to fulfill his responsibilities, limited opportunities for the child, etc. But the exact same issues exist six months after the baby is born as exist six months before the baby is born. No one argues that any of these would make it okay for a mother to smother her baby that has already been born. If these factors do not change the ethics of murdering a tiny baby, then they similarly cannot change the ethics of aborting a fetus. They are the same.
There is simply no way around this conclusion without just shutting your eyes. That is why I simply cannot fathom the pro-choice position. In my mind this should not be a partisan issue. Liberals and conservatives alike should be able to band together against it. If we can all come together to take a stand against racism, how much more ought we to come together against abortion. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a “gray issue”. It is as ethically unambiguous as the question of whether it is okay to kill your own parents. It is not.